Swirling parallels

Hurricanes of Jupiter and terrestrial vortexes are amazingly similar

Parallel vortices on Jupiter and in the Baltic Sea. © NASA / SwRI / MSSS, USGS / Landsat
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At first glance, the gas giant Jupiter has little in common with the earth - it is gaseous and much larger than our rather small, rocky home planet. But these shots reveal that the laws of nature still provide astonishing parallels: The gas vortexes of the massive storms on Jupiter are very similar to the ocean currents on Earth.

The reason for the amazing parallels is physics. "Both are fluids moving on a rotating body, " explains Norman Kuring of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. A complex combination of laminar, smooth flows and turbulence ensures that such vortex patterns are created. "Out of all this complexity, beauty is born - be it in the flow pattern on Earth, on Jupiter or in our coffee cup after we have added milk, " says Kuring.

The picture on the left shows the vortex patterns of ammonia-rich clouds in the outer atmosphere of Jupiter. She recorded the NASA spacecraft Juno. The vortexes are created because the extremely fast rotation of the gas giant and the temperature differences between the upper and lower atmosphere lead to a combination of ascending and transverse flows. The effect is similar to turning a pot of bubbly boiling water in addition to fast.

The picture on the right comes from the Landsat satellite and shows part of the Baltic Sea. The green phytoplankton makes the course of a vortex in the ocean visible. Such eddies are important to the ocean lifecycle, but planetary cycles. Because they contribute to the distribution of heat, carbon and nutrients.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory Display

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- Nadja Podbregar